Pastures provide peace for horses and humans

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Pastures provide peace for horses and humans


WONDANG, Goyang ― One of the sizzling television romances in the late 1990s starred veteran actors Choi Bul-am and Park Won-suk who fused on-screen in the popular MBC drama, “You and I.”
They played a middle-aged courting couple who prevaricated over just about everything but their shy romantic interest in each other (a thankful change as viewers were getting tired of the rambunctious romances of school gangsters, a trend at the time).
Despite the sad fact that the drama was close to a comedy, Choi and Park sparked quite a romantic feel in the air.
One of the classic dates they went on featured them bicycling down a grassy hill squealing with joy. The famous scene continued with them stopping at a lush verdant plain. Under a tree laden with foliage, Choi lowered his head to give his love a soft kiss.
The clear blue sky, meadow and cute picnic mat created a romantic atmosphere for lovebirds that awed viewers at home.
What the viewers did not know (and they should be even more awed by this) was the sweating effort the production crew put in behind the scenes to shoo away whinnying horses from the camera’s view.
Most of the shots for Choi and Park’s date took place at a stud ranch just outside Seoul.
“Our ranch is one of the favorite places for television and commercial producers to come and work,” said Lee Jae-cheon, an assistant manager at the Wondang Stud Farm. “They are very satisfied with the outcome of what they film here.”
The ranch is one of two stud farms the Korea Racing Association runs. First used as a racing track and training facility for racehorses when it opened in 1986, the ranch is no longer used for racing, but as a stud farm and stable for retired racehorses.
Most of the horses at Wondang are thoroughbreds valued from 20 million won ($21,200) to 500 million won.
“But last year we imported a stud that cost $2.2 million and on Jeju, there are two horses that cost more than $3.2 million,” Mr. Lee said explaining that the Korea Racing Association’s other farm is on Jeju Island.
For the average visitor, however, it is impossible to distinguish which horse was the most expensive. The farm is attractive just as it is.
It is apparently attractive in the eye of television producers as well.
Many of Korea’s television hits, including “Legend of the Ambition,” “Jilju (Run),” “To See and See Again” and “Three Men, Three Women,” were filmed here. The ranch was also used as a natural setting for several reality programs featuring young people looking for prospective spouses. Recently, the crew from the television miniseries “Gung” (“The Palace”) filmed an episode here.
“I can say for certain that almost all the dramas, TV commercials, music videos and photo shoots that feature a big grassy area have been created here,” Mr. Lee said proudly.

What’s up with the popularity of this stud farm with the film industry? For one thing, it is located less than an hour by car from central Seoul. It is one of the rare outdoor attractions you can even reach by subway.
Another good thing is that the ranch does not charge admission, nor is there a parking fee. Even for commercial filming, they charge no fee as long as the crew cleans up after themselves and doesn’t scare the horses.
“They are very timid animals,” said Mr. Lee. “I tell visitors, ‘If you don’t bother the horses, they won’t [bother you] either.’”
Another reason for the farm’s popularity is, of course, its stunning beauty. The 364,000 square meters of land (approximately 90 acres), is filled with wide open fields on which about 100 horses freely graze.
Freshly painted white fences run along dirt trails that visitors can follow around the farm. Thick woods surround the ranch from afar, and there are plenty of big trees on the farm to provide cool shade. The ranch also lends picnic mats at its entrance.
On the day of this reporter’s visit, several young couples were sitting on mats gazing at the grazing animals. A group of kindergarten children was on a field trip and a family of five was strolling around the park.
Saying she is a Goyang resident, a woman in her 40s said she and her family visited the farm often to walk.
“What better park could you find than this?” she said indicating the peaceful ranch. A three-year-old female horse standing near her named Yeoyu (meaning Relax), stayed quiet and did not move even when people climbed the fence to pet the docile creature.
She was a racehorse that was retired early because of poor results in her races. Mr. Lee said it was more profitable to retire some female horses early for use as broodmares.
Other horses appeared much more wild than Yeoyu. Sensing a photographer crawling near them, a few galloped away, startling the other horses and the photographer himself.
“Hey, get out of there,” a caretaker yelled from afar.
It was only in 1997 that the farm opened to the public. Because it was not initially designed for outside visitors, it has no street lamps. It remains open only during daylight hours, closing about 5 p.m.

by Lee Min-a

The Wondang Stud Farm can be easily reached from Samsong station on subway line No. 3. From there, its about a 10-minute bus ride bound for the Wondang Stud Farm.
If you are taking your own car, drive toward Ilsan on Tongil road. At the Samsong-ri inspection post, take a left to Wondang. Follow the road signs directing you to the Agricultural Cooperative College or Wondang Stud Farm. For more information, call, (031)966-2998.
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